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GEOPOLITICS/ Multi-polar Europe loses out in the global shift of power (2)

Through its foreign policy, Turkey is shifting from being a bridge between Europe and Asia to exercising hegemonic influence in the lands that formerly constituted the Ottoman Empire.

The Game of Risk   (photo boardgamebeast.com) The Game of Risk (photo boardgamebeast.com)

This is the second of two parts. Read Part 1 here.

Neo-Ottoman Turkey

Turkey is perhaps the most prominent – but by no means the only – case of a European power that is turning away from the Atlantic centre toward the Eurasian pole. Ankara’s Neo-Ottoman foreign policy under the aegis of the governing AKP party (in power since 2002) is well documented, linked as it is to domestic factors – notably the decline of political Kemalism and the diminished influence of pillars of the secular, urban establishment such as the army, and the rise to power of Turkish political Islam and rural Anatolian, socio-cultural conservatism. What is perhaps less appreciated is the AKP’s overarching strategic trajectory and the extent to which it has already repositioned Turkey – from being seen as a pro-Western force in the European periphery to a Eurasian power in its own right and on an equal footing with its NATO allies and EU partners.

First of all, Ankara has a history of confronting the United States and NATO, opposing the deployment of U.S. troops on Turkish territory in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, denying entry to U.S. ships into the Black Sea during the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict, and voting against the U.S.-sponsored UN sanctions against Iran – an escalation of simmering tensions with the United States since the 1990s. Second, Turkey has already forged links with non-Western powers such as Russia, Syria, and Iran. These ties have strengthened Ankara’s hand in distancing itself from Western policies on the Middle East, notably offering alternatives to the sanctions policy vis-à-vis Iran and scaling back hitherto close relations with Israel traditionally favoured by Turkey’s powerful army. Third, all that – in turn – has emboldened the AKP-led Turkish republic to reinforce its hegemonic influence over increasingly volatile neighbouring regions such as the South Caucasus and the Greater Middle East (including the Gulf) and also extend its presence in other strategic areas such as the North Africa, the Balkans, and Central Asia.

The AKP’s foreign policy strategy has been described as a “double-gravity state” that seeks to balance its shared values as a member of the Euro-Atlantic community with its interest in the Greater Middle Eastern neighbourhood. Here one can go further and suggest that the AKP government has a neo-imperial outlook – the revival of Ottoman traditions closely connected to a newly self-assertive, “Great Power” Turkey that acts as an imperial force rather than a modern nation-state.